Winter'14 Departmental Seminar Series


Title: Optimizing Plant Productivity for the 22nd Century
Bernie Grodzinski - Plant Agriculture, University of Guelph


Since the mid-1970s numerous studies have highlighted the extent to which global CO2 levels have been  rising since the late 18th century a significant period that saw extensive  exploitation of natural resources,  intensive industrial growth and a major shift in the demographics of rural populations. The combined effect of global warming and rising global population strain major food production systems and there is valid concern as we approach the 22nd century. The production of traditional food crops may not be sustainable given dwindling land use for agriculture due to urbanization, predicted rises in sea levels and the problems associated with increased plant stress due to heat and drought stress with global warming.  In this lecture we will discuss our goals to identify innovative ways to quantify and better define primary processes in tracheophytes (vascular plants), including photosynthesis, respiration, photo-assimilate export complex source to sink interactions that are both temporal and spatially specific at different times during plant development.   It is the integrated control and homeostasis of these processes over the life cycle that taken together have enabled the tracheopytes to thrive on land, manage water losses while reducing C, N and S.  Using a number of field and greenhouse plants we will show how leaf source-strength is best defined in terms of export capacity rather than in terms of photosynthesis. We will also show how non-invasive procedures for determining daily relative growth rates using gas exchange kinetics and 3D-imaging can be used to study stress responses and the roles of these primary plant processes in determining commercial yield.  Recent studies with Arabidopsis, bred for altered respiratory cycle activities and grown in different CO2 environments will be used to demonstrate the importance of breeding for enhanced sink-strength and also optimizing photosynthesis in non-laminar structures as means to enhance WUE (water use efficiency) plant productivity, seed production and oil content.

Biography:  Dr Bernard Grodzinski is a Professor in the Department of Plant Agriculture at the University Guelph.  He received a B.Sc. Honours in Biochemistry from the University of Toronto and subsequently a MSc and PhD in Biology at York University.  He was a Postdoctoral Fellow of Botany at Oxford, UK prior to his first faculty appointment in the Botany School in Cambridge University, UK from which he was awarded an honorary MA.  His primary research focuses on the molecular, biochemical and physiological responses of plants to stress with a major aim to identify targets within primary metabolism (e.g., photosynthesis and respiration) that can be altered to moderate source to sink interactions and thus maximize productivity of plants both in the field and in controlled environments such as commercial greenhouses.  He currently serves as Director of the Biotron’s LTRF at Guelph and as the Co-Director of CESRF housed in the Bovey Complex on Guelph’s main campus.